University of Nevada, Reno




Selling stamps to celebrities

By Harold


HaroldI found an ad in the classifieds for a stamp salesman. That was for postage stamps for collectors. This was in Beverly Hills in the most fashionable J.W. Robinson Department Store. I worked in a factory most of my time and did not do any retail selling such as this. I used to collect stamps and had some knowledge of them. Well, stupid me decided to apply for the job and I dressed very nice to make a good appearance. The manager of the stamp department was a middle age woman. She interviewed me and said she had a few more people to interview and she would let me know. After a couple of hours, she told me I was hired.

The stamp department was property of Gimbels in New York City. All work came from there and we had to make and send our work reports to Gimbels in New York City. The manager taught and showed me everything I had to know. It was not a difficult job and I did it well. After a month, my manager left on a two week vacation, so I was alone until she came back. She never did return, and I ran the department alone for several months, and would you believe, dumb me was made into the manager? Dumb luck struck again. It’s getting to be a habit.

Many movie stars would shop in this store, and I had the thrill of selling many stamps to them. Some of the actors and actresses I had the pleasure of talking with and selling some stamps to were Barbara Stanwyck. She was my favorite. She was not a stamp collector. She bought them for one of her nieces. I sold Barbara a stamp of the Princess of Monaco, who was a famous actress before she married the prince. Barbara Stanwyck was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She came a long way to be a top actress. Whenever she visited J.W. Robinson, she would always say Hello to me, whether or not she purchased any stamps.

Then there was the famous strip teaser of many years ago, Gypsy Rose Lee. She was a beautiful, mature woman. I would put aside the special stamps she collected and she would call me up to see if there were any for her. If there was, she would tell me she would be in tomorrow to pick them up.

Gloria Stuart and Mrs. Harpo Marx would come in from time to time. I also remember Vincent Price making a purchase. Also the German commander from “Hogan’s Heroes.”

My most famous male actor was Raymond Burr, who made many movies, and then on television his “Perry Mason” and then “Ironsides” were big hits. I never met Perry. He would call me over the telephone. He owned or sponsored in some way one of the Fiji Islands and collected all new stamps issued from them. He wanted some very old and valuable stamps of Fiji, but my boss could never get them. He would send his right hand man in to pick up any stamps he had. It was always nice speaking with him.

There were other Hollywood stars that I would spot going by my stamp counter, such as Tony Curtis. There were many that are just too much to remember.

Besides, some of these that collected stamps, I had many customers that I would put stamps on file for them and every three months I would charge them to their account and mail it to them. Right after the assassination of President John Kennedy, all countries all over the world started issuing sets of stamps on the life of him. It was a great boom for the stamp business, as hundreds of people started collecting them. It was great for our business while it lasted for a couple of years. It then returned to the way it was before, and business tailed off gradually.


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